A plant-based diet, is a diet consisting primarily of foods derived from plants; but also includes fungi and bacteria. This is often referred to as veganism and could be referred to as vegetarianism, if this particular term had not been corrupted to include various animal products and bi-products.
Many people choose a strict plant-based diet, for ethical reasons; because they do not believe that the use of animal products or bi-products is an ethically acceptable behavior. They may also choose this diet for health reasons, due to the many benefits a well balanced plant-based diet can confer.
A plant-based diet, properly balanced and supplemented, can be highly beneficial to one's overall health and well being. This kind of diet can also be valuable for individuals overcoming serious health conditions.
As with any diet, a plant based diet has certain nutritional considerations, which are critical to understand, if you wish to avoid certain diseases, deficiencies or excesses. Many, though not all, of these issues are present in most diets, to some extent. It is indeed possible to be unhealthy with just about any diet, if the correct balance of foods is not eaten.
For instance, someone could conceivably drink soda and potato chips and other plant-based junk food items and be considered a vegan. Indeed, there are many people who do indeed eat this diet, without thoroughly evaluating their nutritional needs and may end up experiencing problems later in life, if not in the present, due to deficiencies that gradually cause the body problems.
On the other hand, there are people who eat a mostly-raw, plant-based diet, and are in excellent shape, often executing great feats of physical prowess.
If one is unsure of where they stand and haven't thoroughly evaluated their nutrition, they should consider talking with a nutritionist and supplementing the following, either through select foods, or through dietary supplements:
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency - Deficiency in B12 can lead to serious neurological disorders. Supplementing B12 is essential, because there are few good sources of B12 in the plant kingdom that don't have analogs, which prevent their absorption by humans. Fortunatly, there are foods that are fortified with B12, as well as cost-effective supplements, which can be used to obtain adequate stores of Vitamin B12.
- Omega 3 Deficiency - It is important to have a high amount of Omega 3 Fatty Acids in your diet, relative to Omega 6 Fatty Acids, to prevent the inflammatory disorders, which may be caused by excessive Omega 6. There are certain plant-based sources like ground flax seed which can supplement Omega 3. One can also eat a large amount of leafy green vegetables and obtain Omega 3. There are blood tests specifically for Omega Fatty Acid ratios, which can help to check one's progress.
- Vitamin D Deficiency - If one is not receiving adequate sunlight, or live at a high latitude, it is usually necessary to supplement Vitamin D. There are a number of these supplements that are friendly to a person on a plant-based diet.
Just because a food is plant-based, of course doesn't make it necessarily healthy. In fact, some of the most unhealthy foods are derived from plants, many are derived from plants and then heavily processed with chemicals.
- Canola Oil - This oil is heavily processed with chemicals such as petroleum solvents and can cause problems such as bowel inflammation, heart disease, weight gain and other health conditions.
- Wheat - Eating wheat can contribute to a number of health issues including celiac disease, as well as type 2 diabetes, asthma, acid reflux, joint pain and insomnia.
- Processed Food - These foods are almost always going to be unhealthy, either through the chemicals and processes used to produce the foods, or because of the additives and sweeteners in many of these foods. It is typically best to eat foods from whole ingredients and to prepare them yourself whenever possible.
- Soda - While sodas are typically made from plant-based ingredients, they tend to contain either processed sugar or high-fructose-corn-syrup, which can cause a variety of chronic degenerative diseases.
- Potatoes - Eating this carb-rich food in excess can cause weight gain, blood sugar imbalances and a number of chronic degenerative diseases.
There are many great resources, including books, websites and videos, to help educate people about the benefits, challenges and cautions, to consider when eating a completely plant-based diet.
- Debate: Should Everyone go Vegan?
- Dr. Mercola's Discussion with Dr. Gabriel Cousens - This is an in-depth discussion about health & wellness, in relation to a plant-based diet.